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Criminals are selling protected lands in the Amazon in Facebook, shows BBC

An investigation is being carried out by the Supreme Court

Credit: BBC Brasil

3 Mar 21

Criminals are selling protected lands in the Amazon in Facebook, shows BBC

A BBC story revealed that protected lands in several Amazonian states are being sold on Facebook by environmental criminals. Pieces of the forest or newly cleared areas, including inside Conservation Units and indigenous lands, are among the lots advertised in the “Sale of residential properties” section of the social network’s buying and selling space, says the article.

To confirm the veracity of the ads, the BBC team met, claiming to represent buyers, with four sellers in Rondônia, the state that leads the advertisements of this type on the social network. Among the land for sale identified in the region are areas within the Uru Eu Wau Wau Indigenous Land and the Angelim Extractive Reserve. In Amazonas, an area of 1,660 hectares (equivalent to 1,660 soccer fields) in the Aripuanã National Forest, for the sum of R$ 3.2 million reais.

The case gave rise to the documentary “Amazonia for sale: the illegal market of protected areas on Facebook”, available on the network Youtube channel, and the crimes are now under scrutiny by the Supreme Court after an order of Justice Luís Roberto Barroso.

Public access to electricity excludes indigenous, quilombolas and settlers in the Amazon, says NGO

Ranking of the most affected states according to IEMA

Credit: IEMA/Reproduction

25 Feb 21

Public access to electricity excludes indigenous, quilombolas and settlers in the Amazon, says NGO

A study conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environment (IEMA) estimates that 212,791 residents of rural settlements, 78,388 indigenous people, 59,106 inhabitants of conservation units (UCs) and 2,555 quilombolas [Afro-brazilian traditional communities] living in the states of the Legal Amazon have no access to public electricity. According to georeferenced methodology developed especially for the survey, in total there are 990,103 excluded, which corresponds to 3.5% of the local population.

The survey, conducted between 2019 and 2020, points out Acre as the state with the highest percentage of people outside public electricity coverage, with 10%, followed by Amazonas (3.9%) and Amapá (3.1%). By total number of people, Pará is at the top of the list, with 409,593 in the dark.

“Access to electricity is fundamental for several reasons: it helps conserve vaccines and medicines; it makes it possible to study at night; it allows for the conservation of cooled food and water pumping; it is fundamental to have access to the internet and telephone; and, in addition, it can provide tools to preserve the local culture” says the IEMA’s technical note.

Praised by Salles, Floresta+ initiative has yet to take off

Yet still, the ministry says that the program is active throughout Brazil

Credit: @mmeioambiente/Twitter

23 Feb 21

Praised by Salles, Floresta+ initiative has yet to take off

Anounced wrongfully as “the largest payment for environmental services program in the world today”, the Floresta+ initiative, launched by the federal government in July 2020, still hasn’t got off the ground, as reported by the environmentalist portal Fakebook Eco. The payment to those who protect the forest – such as small farmers, indigenous peoples and traditional communities -, has not yet been carried out, since the public calls for the selection of beneficiaries have not been held.

The project was approved by the UN climate fund in 2019, at the beginning of the Bolsonaro administration, and obtained about R$ 500 million reais from the Green Climate Fund, in negotiations initiated by the Temer administration in 2018 – resources obtained for results in reducing deforestation in 2014 and 2015, in Dilma Rousseff administration.

Supermarket chain will sponsor conservation unit in Rondônia state

Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, Jair Bolsonaro and Carrefour CEO in Brasil, Noël Prioux

Credit: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

9 Feb 21

Supermarket chain will sponsor conservation unit in Rondônia state

The supermarket chain Carrefour will be the first company to join the “Adopt a Park” program, by sponsoring, with an investment of R$ 4 million reais per year, the protection of the Extractive Reserve (Resex) of Cuniã Lake, a federal conservation unit (UC) located in Rondônia state. According to the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, the agreement provides for support in protection and inspection actions in the area, which covers 75,876.67 hectares, in exchange for publicity actions promoted by the company about the project.

Launched by a federal decree on February 9, the program will be coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment, through the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). In its first phase, only the 132 federal UCs located in the Amazon were included.

In a statement, Carrefour said it “positively evaluates the Federal Government’s program”. The publicity offered in return comes in handy for the company, which went through an image crisis at the end of 2020, being targeted by dozens of protests calling for justice for the death of João Alberto Silveira Freitas, who was beaten to death by supermarket security guards in a store in Porto Alegre (RS).

In protest, Ibama’s public servants resign after termination of technical leader

Eduardo Bim, Ibama’s president

Credit: Handout/Ibama

14 Jan 21

In protest, Ibama’s public servants resign after termination of technical leader

After the announcement of the termination of Halisson Peixoto Barreto, national coordinator of the environmental agency Ibama’s sanctions process, the heads of the sections commanded by the Barreto resigned from their positions in protest. Barreto’s departure was a request from Wagner Tadeu Matiota, a Military Police colonel, and the new superintendent of environmental infractions at Ibama (Siam), who took office in December 2020. With the request for collective resignation, all the work in analysis, conciliation and application of sanctions of the agency was paralyzed, points out the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

Since 2013, Barreto had been in charge of a team of approximately 300 employees, responsible for processing environmental fines. According to the specialized portal O Eco, officials of the superintendency of Rio Grande do Sul sent a letter rejecting the decision to Ibama’s president, Eduardo Bim. “The exoneration takes place in the midst of a critical moment for the administration, precisely in the area of the sanctioning process. It is worth mentioning here that Mr. Halisson has worked exhaustively in the construction and implementation of the whole environmental fines process”, says the text. Bim said he was unable to overturn the decision.

For Suely Araújo, former president of Ibama and senior specialist in public policies of the Climate Observatory, the departure of the technical leader is another episode of the systematic dismantling of Ibama provoked by the current government. “The leadership is removed, the team is demotivated, public policies are weakened. They get what they want: the weakening of the agency that ‘bothered’ them the most,” she declared to Folha.

Ministry of the Environment bids management of national parks to the private sector in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul states

Those are the first parks to be auctioned under the new regulation proposed by Salles

Credit: Divulgação/ICMBio

11 Jan 21

Ministry of the Environment bids management of national parks to the private sector in Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul states

The national parks of Aparados da Serra and Serra Geral, located on the border between Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul state, were auctioned by the Ministry of the Environment and ceded to the private sector. On Twitter, Minister Ricardo Salles celebrated the R$ 20 million bid given by the Construcap group, winner of the trading session, and the R$260 million that should be invested throughout the 30-year contract. “Absolute success of the new model of federal park concessions!”, he said.

For the Federal Public Prosecution office, though, the bidding is irregular and should be annulled. The prosecutors filed a lawsuit against the environmental agencies Ibama and ICMBio, responsible for overseeing the parks, in the Federal Court of Rio Grande do Sul, demanding a more detailed basic project on the concession, but the request was rejected by the court.

Meetings about the merger of environmental agencies are dominated by armed forces personnel

Minutes are vague and do not detail the subjects discussed, says report

Credit: José Cruz/Agência Brasil

28 Dec 20

Meetings about the merger of environmental agencies are dominated by armed forces personnel

The meetings from a work group created by the Ministry of the Environment about the merger of Ibama and ICMBio are being conducted behind closed doors almost exclusively by military personnel and members of São Paulo state Military Police. Ibama and ICMbio are the country’s main environmental agencies, responsible for environmental licensing, overseeing and conservation. Minister Ricardo Salles excluded the civil society from the meetings.

In September, the National Association of Environmental Public Servants (Ascema Nacional) denounced the militarization of key positions in the ministry, denouncing in a dossier “the replacement of career servants by military personnel or military police (inexperienced but obedient),” which would show “the intentionality of weakening the environmental area in the current administration,” says the text.

Government gives concession to exploit natural resources at Humaitá National Forest

The gorest has three times the area of the city of São Paulo

Credit: Handout

23 Dec 20

Government gives concession to exploit natural resources at Humaitá National Forest

With the authorization of the federal government published in the Official Gazette of the Union (DOU) on December 17, companies, cooperatives and local community associations will be able to, from now on, carry out sustainable forest management and extraction of timber and non-timber products from the Humaitá National Forest (Flona Humaitá), in southern Amazonas state.

The environmental concession, signed by the Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, lasts 40 years, according to the Public Forest Management Law (2006), and was already foreseen in the Annual Forest Grant Plan of 2020, the government said. Flona Humaitá has a total area of 472,454.90 hectares, equivalent to three times the size of the city of São Paulo, and will be divided into three management units.

A few days later, the DOU published the inclusion of nine Conservation Units in the National Privatization Program (PND), with the goal of guaranteeing “the sustainable use of the economic potential” of the regions, according to the government. The measure includes the National Forest of Brasília (DF) and the national parks of Serra dos Órgãos (RJ), Ubajara (CE), Serra da Capivara (PI) and Chapada dos Guimarães (MT).

Auction of 327 oil blocks threatens indigenous lands and conservation units, warns NGO

Study shows that the Amazon region would be most affected

Credit: zhengzaishuru/via iStock

4 Dec 20

Auction of 327 oil blocks threatens indigenous lands and conservation units, warns NGO

Of the 327 oil blocs auctioned by the National Oil and Gas Agency (ANP) in the 2nd Permanent Offering Cycle, only 17 were sold – the equivalent of 5%. Although the volume can be considered low, R$ 56.6 million were raised, more than double the previous cycle, in 2019, according to the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo. Most of the blocks for sale were in land, reassuring the objective of interiorization of the oil industry in places previously explored only by Petrobras, the national state owned company.

The blocks offered in the Amazon region worry environmentalists. A preliminary study to the auction, promoted by the NGO 350.org, points out that the exploration areas, if sold, can cause significant social and environmental damage in 47 Indigenous Lands (IT) and 22 Conservation Units (UC) located near the extraction sites. The hydraulic fracturing method, known as fracking, in which a perforated vertical well receives an injection of water together with chemical solvents and sand, under great pressure, is pointed out as especially harmful. Among the risks is “contamination of surface and underground water resources” due to the toxic substance injected, local hybrid insecurity, since the technique demands “excessive use of water” and threatens “the food security of small farmers, indigenous peoples and traditional peoples,” the report says.

The document identifies dozens of social and environmental impacts from oil and gas exploration, including the territorial threat to indigenous and traditional communities and the increase in burning and deforestation in occupied areas.

Federal environmental agency allows construction of  resort on endangered turtle’s conservation beach in the Northeast

The resort construction was once prohibited and fined by Ibama itself

Credit: Projeto Tamar/Handout

19 Nov 20

Federal environmental agency allows construction of resort on endangered turtle’s conservation beach in the Northeast

The superintendent of the Brazilian Environmental Agency (Ibama) of Northeast state of Bahia, Rodrigo Santos Alves, authorized, against a previous technical decision by Ibama itself, the resumption of the construction works of a luxury beach resort in Praia do Forte; the enterprise poses risks to the procreation of endangered turtles species, according to conservation experts.

Nominated by Ricardo Salles in June 2019, Rodrigo Santos Alves gave his approval for the installation of a wall directly on the sand, in front of the hotel, in the sand, compromising the reproduction of the turtles, which advance to the shore to spawn. A fine of R$ 7.5 million that had been applied against the enterprise was also withdrawn. According to an article by O Estado de São Paulo, Alves, who is a partner of real estate broker Remax Jazz, which operates with luxury properties on the coast of Bahia, did not visit the site of the works, and justified his decision by claiming that “the licensor must balance the complex and often conflicting values between the environmental impact and the importance of the activity or venture, always seeking to promote ‘productive and pleasant harmony between the human being and his environment.

Also about Salles political and ideological usage of Ibama, newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo published last week a report of an audit carried out in October by the Federal Audit Court (TCU) that points to the irregular appointment of military personnel to Ibama’s high ranking positions promoted by the Minister of the Environment. The practice even disrespects legal requirements of the government itself, such as meeting criteria related to professional experience and academic training. The report analyzed eight nominations made by Salles.

As the newspaper reported, “none of these nominations meets the basic requirements of Decree 9727 published by President Bolsonaro in March 2019, with the promise to honor the ‘meritocracy’ in hiring rather than political sponsorship in government.

Minister weakens protection at Fernando de Noronha national park and attacks congressman with childish remarks

Salles signs a permit to allow sardines fishing in the region

Credit: Globo/Reproduction

28 Oct 20

Minister weakens protection at Fernando de Noronha national park and attacks congressman with childish remarks

The minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, arrived in Fernando de Noronha National Park on October 28 and, in a few days, left the mark of his management in the region.

In the company of Marcelo Álvaro Antônio, Minister of Tourism, Salles granted to the private initiative the Boldró Viewpoint, a federal property that, according to the terms of the call notice opened by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), will house services of food and beverage, souvenirs and reception of visitors for an indefinite time. On the 30th, together with the Secretary of Fisheries, Jorge Seif Junior, and the president of ICMBio, Fernando Cesar Lorencini, Salles announced the authorization for sardine fishing within the Fernando de Noronha National Park. The measure was celebrated by President Bolsonaro, who congratulated the Secretary of Fisheries in a post on social media.

As pointed out by O Estado de S. Paulo, the decision ignores a technical opinion contrary to the release issued by ICMBio itself in 2016. The document, to which the report had access, warns that “making an exception for sardine fishing may imply precedent for greater pressure for the release of other fisheries” and that “there is no motivation in the contexts of biodiversity conservation, economic or historical tradition that justify the opening of the activity”.

The government of Pernambuco, where the conservation unit is located, has also expressed itself against the Minister’s decision. José Antônio Bertotti Júnior, Secretary of Environment and Sustainability of the state, declared in a note sent to the Fantástico TV show that the measure, in the long term, “will lead to the fragility of protection in the country and in extreme cases interfere with sustainable tourism practices, since it may alter the food selectivity of the shark, and may bring risks of attacks on the human population”.

Ricardo Salles’ passage through the archipelago was also the scenario of an institutional crisis. In response to a comment by Rodrigo Maia, president of the Chamber of Deputies, who criticized the minister’s stance on environmental protection measures, Salles’ official profile responded to the post by calling Maia “Nhonho,” a nickname given to the politician by government supporters, in reference to a character in the Mexican series “Chaves”. After the repercussion, Salles claimed that his account was invaded and did not recognize the author of the comment.

According to a survey conducted by Folha de S. Paulo, every 23 days on average, the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) requests the removal of Ricardo Salles’ minister for his actions against the environment. The frequency is due to the resistance of the Justice in complying with the request. Faced with the legal maneuvers by the prosecutors, which make it difficult to continue the process, the solution found is to appeal. “There has already been a postponement of a trial, erroneous distribution of an appeal, delay in citing the minister and even a challenge by the MPF’s Inspector General’s Office,” he said.

Crisis at Ministry of the Environment deepens with accusations from workers and militarization of key positions

The dismantling of the Ministry is being denounced since Salles took office

Crédito: Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

22 Sep 20

Crisis at Ministry of the Environment deepens with accusations from workers and militarization of key positions

On September 4,  Ascema, the National Association of Environmental Public Servants presented a dossier called “Chronology of a disaster in waiting: Bolsonaro’s government action to dismantle environmental policies in Brazil”. The document details the dismantling of the governance structure of the Ministry of the Environment and its agencies Ibama and ICMBio since 2018, and it was sent by Ascema to the National Congress, to the UN and to NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  

Even under growing pressure, the Minister of the Environment announced fresh changes to the structure of the ministry. On the 21st,  the minister replaced the head of the Biodiversity Secretary and nominated a former agribusiness lobbyist to run the recently created Secretary of the Amazon and Environmental Services

On the 22nd, minister Ricardo Salles confirmed the nomination of Military Police Colonel Fernando Cesar Lorencini as the new president for ICMBio. He has occupied the position provisionally since August; his nomination was published in the Official Diary of the Union signed by Minister Braga Netto, president’s Bolsonaro Chief of Staff.  Besides the military ranking at the head of a biodiversity agency, colonel Lorencini’s nomination drew attention because he was part of the police squad involved in the massacre of the Carandiru Public Prison in 1992 in São Paulo, when the police raid ended with 111 inmates killed.

Cerrado Day: nothing to celebrate

Fires ravaged 2,000 hectares of native forest in Chapada dos Guimarães

Crédito: Michelle7623/iStock

11 Sep 20

Cerrado Day: nothing to celebrate

On September 11, Brazil celebrates the Cerrado National Day. The second largest Brazilian biome, the Cerrado occupies 22% of the Brazilian territory and is of strategic importance for water supply and biodiversity preservation. The biome, according to official estimates, is home to around 10,000 plant species, 800 birds and 160 other mammals, concentrating 5% of the diversity of these species on the planet. The Cerrado is known as the “Birthplace of Waters” because it encompasses three important South American hydrographic basins – Tocantins – Araguaia, São Francisco and Prata.

The Cerrado is also one of the most threatened biomes in the world, under pressure from agriculture and livestock, as well as logging for charcoal production. Between 2018 and 2019, deforestation advanced over 6,483 km2 of the biome, or four times the area of ​​the city of São Paulo. From January to August 2020, the state of Mato Grosso lost 1.7 million hectares to forest fires — 31% in savanna areas. In Chapada dos Guimarães National Park, the fire has already ravaged 2,000 hectares of native forest.

A report by the Jornal Nacional published on September 17 exemplified the dynamic of destruction: the TV report accompanied an inspection operation by the Brazilian Institute of Biodiversity and Renewable Resources (Ibama) in the Cerrado region of Matopiba area, in Tocantins. They showed the use of “chains” and burning to clean the land. Ibama inspectors covered over 7 thousand kilometers in the Nascentes do Parnaíba National Park and in the Jalapão State Park, verifying about twenty thousand hectares of illegal deforestation. Part of the destruction occurred within private rural properties, in areas destined to the Legal Reserve — which were to remain intact under the Forest Code. The MPF is investigating the complaints presented by Ibama. According to experts heard in the report, this deforestation affects the availability of water in the region; some municipalities in Matopiba already face problems in supplying the population.

ICMBio agent dies while fighting forest fires in the Cerrado region

Goiás State had a 38,1% increase in fires this year

Credits: Facebook/Reproduction

2 Sep 20

ICMBio agent dies while fighting forest fires in the Cerrado region

Environmental analyst Welington Fernando Peres Silva, a public servant at the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), died of burn injuries suffered during a fire-fighting operation carried out in Emas National Park, in the cerrado region of Goiás State. He he was battling fires on August 21 when the wind changed direction and he got caught in the middle of the fire. Between August 1 and 31, the State of Goiás recorded 964 hotspots according to state government data, an increase of 38.1% compared to August 2019.

Government plans to sink 73 ships along the Brazilian coastline

Fernando de Noronha National Marine Park has a rich and delicate ecosystem

Foto: Rafa Tecchio/via Wikimedia Commons/CC 3.0

2 Mar 20

Government plans to sink 73 ships along the Brazilian coastline

The federal government, with the support of the Navy but without clear environmental criteria, intends to sink 73 ships to create artificial reefs in all the main touristic locations along the Brazilian coast, most of them located inside biodiversity conservation units and protected areas. 

The project, which is being spearheaded by the president’s son, Flávio Bolsonaro and tourism authorities, plans to build “marine museums” at Maritime National Park of Fernando de Noronha, a highly sensitive ecological site. Biologists issued warnings about the negative impacts of the plan.

Government authorizes sports fishing inside conservation areas

The president was once fined for fishing in a restricted area

Crédito: Bolsonaro’s Archive via O Globo

6 Feb 20

Government authorizes sports fishing inside conservation areas

An ordinance by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) allowed sports fishing inside Conservation Units in all of Brazil’s biomes. The normative also applies to Integral Conservation Units, highly sensitive areas from the biodiversity and environmental protection perspective. President Jair Bolsonaro defends sports fishing with enthusiasm and was fined while fishing in a protected area in the coast of Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

NGOs, social movements and politicians file criminal denounce against the Minister of the Environment

Grupo pede apuração de possíveis de crimes cometidos pelo ministro do Meio Ambiente

Crédito: Reprodução

22 Jan 20

NGOs, social movements and politicians file criminal denounce against the Minister of the Environment

Ceará’s Bar Association, Greenpeace and other entities and NGOs, in alliance with politicians and social movements representatives, presented a formal denunciation to the Brazilian Attorney-General’s Office against the Minister of the Environment.

They took action based on a story from newspaper Folha de S. Paulo which detailed  the participation of environmental infractors in a reunion with minister Salles in December 2019. That meeting resulted in the suspension of federal inspection and control in the Extractivist Reserve Chico Mendes in the Amazon region.

In 2019, Ministry of the Environment has paralysis in programs and unused funds

Vacant positions and non-utilized budget mark Salles first year at the head of ministry.

Credit: Barbara Veiga/Greenpeace

6 Dec 19

In 2019, Ministry of the Environment has paralysis in programs and unused funds

After approximately one year of Bolsonaro’s presidency, the Ministry of the Environment, under Ricardo Salles, has key positions idle and a total paralysis on programs. According to an examination by the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, there are 25 vacant senior positions at the ministry. Military personnel, chosen by the minister, are occupying the remaining high level jobs.

The ministry also didn’t spend any of the R$8 million that were destined to the National Fund on Environmental Change and the R$4,2 million reais that should go to the National Environment Fund, that supports conservation and sustainable development.

Bolsonaro wants to reduce  protected nature areas

Interference violates Brazil’s Federal Constitution

Crédito: Marcos Corrêa/PR/via CC BY 2.0

12 Jun 19

Bolsonaro wants to reduce protected nature areas

An article by newspaper O Estado de São Paulo revealed that the Bolsonaro administration planned to reduce more than 60 conservation units/ protected areas to solve conflicts surrounding federal roads, railways, ports and airports within their limits. According to an official document accessed by the journalist, the aim of the initially planned presidential decree was to eliminate interference and give juridic security to the enterprises – either public or private. However, plans were delayed because, according to the Constitution, to change the status of protected areas the federal government needs to approve a law in Congress. Since taking office, Bolsonaro’s government has made clear his intentions to review all 334 federal conservation units in the country.

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